CHAOS WAR: From The Field - PAK & VAN LENTE on #4

CHAOS WAR: From The Field W/PAK & FVL

Chaos War #4, the penultimate — who doesn’t love taking a chance to use the word “penultimate”? — issue of the Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente co-written miniseries hit stores last week, and the ever-effervescent duo have once again answered your questions, submitted via Twitter and our forums.

This time around, we discuss the fact that the characters on the Chaos War #4 cover aren’t actually in the comic, get some behind-the-scenes insight on what might have been with Incredible Hercules, and find out if Herc’s transformation in the latest issue affects his ability to deliver “yo mama” jokes.

If you’ve got questions for Pak and Van Lente you’d like to ask in a future column (only one issue left!), ask it in our forums or tweet us @Newsarama with the hashtag #RamaChaos. Now, on with the questioning and answering.

Newsarama: Greg, Fred, you guys have said before that you’re going to keep collaborating after Chaos War ends next month, though you’re not co-writing anything in the March Marvel solicitations, which were released on Wednesday. So when should readers expect to hear more about what’s next for the Pak and Van Lente team?

Fred Van Lente: I think you’ll see it in Chaos War #5.

Nrama: That’s pretty soon.

Greg Pak: And since there are no books that we’re actually co-writing in March, we’ve decided that Fred’s writing all the books I’m writing, and I wrote all the books that he’s writing.

Van Lente: Exactly. The right names will be on it, but we’re actually just swapping. Basically, instead of smashing, the Hulk gets into a dozens contest involving mama jokes.

Nrama: That’s a fun tradition, like in newspaper comic strips, where, like, the guy who does Beetle Bailey would do a Family Circus.

Here’s a bit of an obnoxious observation — the Dan Panosian cover for Chaos War #4 is very cool, and features Thor and Silver Surfer. Only thing is — not that this is unheard of — neither of them actually appears in the comic.

Van Lente: That used to drive me crazy as a kid, when I got a comic where what happened in the cover did not actually appear in the story. Just drove me nuts.

Pak: You know what? That might actually be my fault. I'm not sure, but I have this vague memory of suggesting a Thor/Surfer cover. In my feeble defense, if indeed I am the culprit, the reality is that covers have to be done a long time before anything else is done.

Van Lente: That’s an excellent point, Greg. The covers in some cases get done months before really the stories are finalized. So for all I know, we fully intended Thor and Silver Surfer to be in that issue, but for various reasons, they ended up not being.

Pak: The time in which some things have to get done sometimes result in situations like this. We apologize, but it is a very pretty cover.

Nrama: And it’s very easy to imagine that Thor and Silver Surfer are both just slightly off panel in a couple of the scenes.

Van Lente: Exactly. They’re in their own tie-ins.

Nrama: Moving to questions from Twitter, here’s one from Warden_JP: “Can we get an in-depth explanation of wut exactly Gaea did 2 our boy Herc? An where it places him on the totem poles?”

Pak: From the beginning of Chaos War #1, we’ve seen Herc running around with the power of an All-Father. But being Herc, he’s struggling to make sense of that power, figure out how to control it, and just come to terms with what it means to wield that kind of power. So he hasn’t always been able to wield it terribly efficiently, nor has he really come to grips with what having all that power really means in terms of responsibility. What happens when he goes into the Pool of Fire with Pele and Gaea is that the kind of truths of what it really means to be that kind of god are revealed to him. He finally burns away enough of himself to be able to see what it is to be this All-Father. He didn’t get a power-up in the sense of his powers increasing. It’s not like she invested him with new powers, she just opened his eyes to the power he has.

Van Lente: And he’s going to use it to whup ass.

Pak: Yeah, exactly. Even though Hercules, among all the Marvel heroes, has probably killed more people than anyone else — let’s face it, he was a warrior in Ancient Greece, and led armies and slaughtered many, many people. Those mythological stories of Hercules, they’re filled with actual killings. But be that as it may, Hercules is still a Marvel hero in the sense that he’s always struggling with the limits of power. He knows that it’s possible to go too far, that there are certain kinds of actions that mere mortals are not permitted to take. Even though he’s a god, I think he still has those kinds of moral limitations.

Van Lente: He’s mortal on the inside, and I think that’s what Gaea was trying to get him to overcome.

Pak: It’s a very scary moment for Hercules, frankly. One of the best responses I got to this issue was a fan twittered us and said he was really scared for Hercules. I think that’s the totally appropriate response, because right now Hercules is walking away from the normal restraints that he’s had, and entering a different way of being. It’s what Hebe was warning him of: that whatever was going to happen in that pit was going to change him, in a way that maybe he has to be changed in order to save the world. But what does that mean for everybody else? What does that mean for Hercules himself?

Van Lente: We’re about to find out, ladies and gentlemen. Aww snap. In the greatest dozens contest the cosmos has ever seen.

Nrama: He was way too restrained in previous dozens contests.

Pak: When you have all the powers of an All-Father, and you’re stripped of all mortal morals, the dozens becomes a lethal game indeed.

Nrama: The universe quakes at the thought. Greg, the next Twitter question, from TDSpidey616, is directed towards you: “Greg, I've made it no secret of being a HUGE Miek fan, so gotta know what made you bring him back now during Chaos War, and will we see more of him in Incredible Hulks or any other of your projects?”

Pak: You know what, I’m, uh… let me see, what month is this?

Van Lente: Tell ‘em Greg, tell the people!

Pak: I’m just going to say it.

Van Lente: Do it! Do it!

Pak: Incredible Hulks #623 and #624. Do not miss them, Spidey616.

Nrama: Well that’s some intrigue, there… from both of you. Here’s a question from coolmvm on our forums: “Where is Mephisto during all this CHaos War stuff ?” Seems like he’s a guy that might be interested in the goings-on.

Van Lente: We really wanted to use Mephisto, but for various reasons we were not allowed to. So the answer is, Mephisto is in a secure editorial lockbox.

Pak: The in-story explanation is that Mephisto is presumably wherever Hela and Pluto and all the other gods of the underworld are.

Van Lente: And if you consider Mephisto to be the devil, in essence, we saw him get his in the Chaos King one-shot that Brandon Montclare and Mike Kaluta did.

Nrama: Cool. Here’s another question from all-star question-asker TDSpidey616: “It was recently revealed that Chaos War was meant to be the 2nd arc of a new ongoing Herc book. Care to elaborate?”

Van Lente: That came out in a web chat that Greg and I did over on Comics Should Be Good. The original idea was that the Herc book was going to end with “Assault on New Olympus,” and then relaunch as part of the Heroic Age, with two parallel storylines. One was what got developed into the Prince of Power miniseries, and the other was actually going to have Herc running around in the Continuum, which is this empty universe Hera created. He was going to have a whole other adventure in there, involving Prometheus, that Greg came up with.

Pak: Some day I want to do that Prometheus story. I’ve always really loved the Prometheus myth.

Van Lente: And you love giants.

Pak: And centaurs too, by the way.

Van Lente: You love giants and centaurs. And, I’m assuming, trolls. You’re like an 8-year-old, it’s a beautiful thing.

So the first arc of that series was supposed to be what became Prince of Power by itself. For that matter, at the end of “Assault on New Olympus,” the reader was supposed to know that Herc wasn’t dead. We were building up to the death of Hercules, and then there was going to be a twist where everybody but the reader thought he was dead. Then you launch the new series, and then Chaos War would be the second arc. But Marvel decided that it would be better to have the readers also think he was dead, give Amadeus his own miniseries, and then do Chaos War as its own book. In fact, that eight-page Hercules story that Reilly Brown drew that was in Chaos War #1 was originally supposed to be in the Enter the Heroic Age anthology, if you guys remember that. That came out in April. Behind the scenes at the sausage factory!

Pak: It’s kind of funny. There are often things like this where we’ll have a plan and there’ll be suggestions on how to run things a little differently, and sometimes we kind of have to spin on a dime, but it’s hard to say no when you have a chance to do a crazy Prince of Power miniseries.

Van Lente: And I say that without a hint of bitterness. I loved Prince of Power, the way that turned out, and I love how Chaos War is turning out, so I couldn’t be happier with the results, and the fact that we did not do our intended plan.

Pak: Exactly. There are great opportunities that come up when you can let that intended plan go away. The other thing about it was that essentially we’re still doing the big story we always intended to do. It’s just that we’ve been able to add to it, and expand on a few other parts of it along the way — which is a gift, frankly.

The other thing that came out of all of that, which was just a ton of fun to write and see come into the world, was that Fall of an Avenger two-parter; the Hercules funeral book, which was just ludicrously fun, and, again, a real gift to be able to do something like that. So, no complaints here.

Nrama: Sounds like everything got a little wider in scope due to the way things turned out.

Van Lente: Yeah, exactly. Which for something like Chaos War, which is such a huge, cosmic, mind-bending storyline, was really just what the doctor ordered for it.

Nrama: And who doesn’t love giants and centaurs? Seems pretty universal.

Pak: And speaking of giants and centaurs, you may not want to miss Incredible Hulks #621, which we’re actually sending to the printer today. Just saying!

Nrama: One more Twitter question, from Hutchimus: “So now that Herc's the "Super-God" will there a new God of Heroes? That's a neat portfolio for a character to have.”

Van Lente: That’s a good point. I think we’re going to steal your idea, and perhaps implement it at some point.

“God of Heroes,” I think that was a throwaway description in Prince of Power that just stuck. It applies to Herc really appropriately. Obviously, in the Marvel Universe, and in real life, other heroes pre-date Hercules, like Gilgamesh being a prominent example — both the Marvel character and the real person. Real person? [Laughs.] The mythological figure from our world. “I just met him yesterday!”

But in many ways Herc is the template for all the heroes who have followed after him because he was the most popular. So it is appropriate, I think, to call him that. Perhaps, after Chaos War #5, we will call him something else.

Nrama: So to wrap things up, are there any teases you wanted to give towards January’s Chaos War #5 — the last issue of the series, and the final chapter of the Incredible Hercules saga?

Van Lente: It’s bittersweet because obviously it’s sad to see Incredible Hercules go, but it’s such a great realization of what Greg and I have been planning for years. I just think it’s neat that we were able to do it, it took three years to complete, and that Marvel supported us the whole way. I think it’s going to provide a really wonderful ending, for not just people who have been reading Chaos War, but people who have been with us since we took over the Hulk’s book and the Internet exploded.

Pak: It’s been a beautiful thing to work on, and I’ll reiterate what Fred said, that we are hugely appreciative for the support that so many people at Marvel have given us. It’s interesting — we were talking before about folks at Marvel suggesting other plans that affected which stories came out when. One thing that should be said, is that those suggestions were made out of love for the book, and out of desire for the book to do as well as it possibly could. We always took those suggestions and ran with them, also because we knew that everybody at Marvel totally had our back, and was really trying to make the book as successful as it could be, and for that we are enormously grateful.

There’s an amazing book by Dylan Horrocks called Hicksville, which posits a place where there’s this amazing museum of comics, and in this amazing museum of comics, there’s this room where they have all of these comics completed as they were originally intended to be completed. Completely without editorial interference or whatever it is — this fantasy of creators actually being able to tell the kind of stories they wanted to tell. The amazing thing about Hercules is that we were able to tell the story that we wanted to tell. And we were able to tell it over the course of multiple years, and that’s just a huge gift, so we’re really grateful.

And it goes without saying that all of that is really made possible by the fans, by the folks who bought the book. When you tell your local comic book store to pre-order a book for you, when you go in there and you pick it up every month, they order more issues and the book can survive. So all of y’all who have been talking up the book, and buying it, and following it through its different incarnations, we owe it all to you, so thank you very much.

Van Lente: What Greg said.

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